There’s no better antidote to a cold Beijing winter evening than a steaming spicy lamb hotpot in a raucous and crowded restaurant. Families and colleagues celebrating the impending arrival of the lunar new year weave life and color into the atmosphere, as do a couple of guys loudly toasting each other with glasses of baijiu (white spirit) on the next table.
This is no synthetic “experience” manufactured by some restaurant or retail marketing guru. It’s visceral and spontaneous. Its authenticity is built on time-tested traditions and rituals rather than ephemeral data-generated insights aimed at satisfying the relentless quest for novelty of the influencer crowd. Continue reading Notes from the field: enjoying steaming Beijing lamb hotpot
I can’t say that I was too surprised to see a couple of robots lurking around the lobby when I first checked into my Beijing hotel. The rate of new technology adoption is much faster in China than other countries.
Even though one of the machines was being touted as a service bot for delivering items to guest’s rooms, I would suspect that the main value of the two devices currently lies as a marketing tool. They certainly attracted enough attention and social media engagement from both domestic and overseas visitors to justify their cost. But I don’t think it will be too long before such machines will be able to carry out more business-critical tasks like checking in guests using facial recognition, booking cars and taxis for them, and securing reservations for VIPs in exclusive restaurants. Of course, some human staff will still be required to add a personal touch to the guest experience – but not quite as many as now I would guess. Continue reading Notes from the field: hotel service bots & porcine facial recognition systems
The Summer Palace (颐和园) was the perfect place to finish my final trip to China this year. No matter how many times I visit this former Qing imperial resort, I never lose my sense of wonder at the sublime beauty of its palaces, pavilions, and lakes.
The Qing emperors and their retinues certainly knew how to enjoy themselves. However, their extravagance – best exemplified by the construction of the notorious marble boat for the Empress Dowager Cixi using funds intended for modernizing the navy – played a major role in the demise of the dynasty around the turn of the twentieth century. Continue reading Notes from the field: the Beijing Summer Palace
I still vividly remember one of the first Chinese lessons I ever took extolling the beauty of the red autumn leaves of the Fragrant Hills (香山) just to the northwest of Beijing. It’s strange what sticks in the mind.
Unfortunately, I arrived far too late to see the leaves when I made my first ever visit this morning to this former imperial resort that dates back as far back as the Jin dynasty (1115-1234). But I was more than compensated for this by a crisp morning stroll around the virtually deserted park. It was only when I left at around 9:30am that it started filling up with visitors. Continue reading Notes from the field: a visit to the the Fragrant Hills
Earlier this week it was announced that China now has over 800 million Internet users – more than the population of every other county on the planet except for India. That represents a penetration rate of 57.7% according to the China Internet Network Information Center. Over 98% of the users go online with a smart phone; 566 million use mobile payments.
Continue reading China retail: a crucible of competitive innovation
Back home in Taipei. My trip to Beijing certainly gave me plenty of food for thought. Judging by the size of my stomach, a tad too much perhaps!
Continue reading Transforming the Traditional Beijing Breakfast
Luckin has been gaining a lot of attention recently thanks to cleverly positioning itself as the plucky young David fighting to unseat the Starbucks goliath in the China coffee market. Except of course, having closed a $200 million funding round that gives it a $1 billion valuation, the company is hardly a little guy at all and has already opened over 500 outlets throughout the country.
Continue reading Luckin: challenging Starbucks for the China Coffee King Crown?
An intense start to this year’s China Children’s Computer Contest sponsored by VIA and HTC. Today the venue moves to the gymnasium at Beihang University for the maker segment of the event.
Continue reading Beijing Great Bell Temple (大钟寺)
Another perfect summer evening stroll, this time after over-indulging in the sweetest and tenderest ribs of lamb that I can ever recall eating at the Xibei Youmiancun Restaurant (西贝莜面村) in Wudaokou.
Continue reading Tenderest ribs of lamb: Xibei Youmiancun Restaurant